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Ethiopian Opals Grading Chart

 Opal Charts on Opal Auctions

Ethiopian Opal Chart


Opalauctions has strict guidelines that must be adhered to be a Verified Ethiopian  Opal Seller.

Our Opal sheriff monitors listings so all sellers offer opals with  accurate descriptions and images .

lAll Dark colored Ethiopian opals are to be called DARK BROWN on Opalauctions

Smoked Ethiopian Opal cannot be called Black Smoked Opal

No reference to Body tone chart as this chart was made for Australian black opals not Ethiopian Opals

Full Disclosure of any treatment has to be listed even if oil is used

-No cracked or crazed Ethiopian Opal to be listed in no reserve.

-Listings cannot just show black back ground.

 One image can be on black but neutral or hand shots must be in the listing so buyer can see actual  true colour  and not over enhanced on black image.

- Seller s offer 7 day refund policy if buyer not 100% HAPPY WITH WIN.


Our latest program is the Opal Sheriff.

This program is based on the successful Gemstone Sheriff on GemRockAuctions.

The OS ,Opal Sheriff will assist sellers in helping to describe the pattern of Ethiopian opals .

There are many unique patterns to Ethiopian Opals and on Opal Auctions descriptions have to be accurate.

The OS will also assist opals sellers in RRC recommended Retail price.

As wholesalers we can only allow maximum mark up 3.5 times on wholesale price.

Opal associations and Jewellers association and valuers recommend RRP maximum 3.5 times wholesale.

This also applies to maximum price obtained for a sold similar pattern opal.



One the most expensive Ethiopian  Opal sale was this Gem 23 carats rare Honey comb pattern Ethiopian opal sold for $35,000 by Opalethiopia.

This opal has most spectacular Honey comb pattern for an Ethiopian Opal

One of the most popular patterns in Ethiopian opals, it is a naturally formed  potch line web inclusions know as an Orderly  Geometrical Spatial Arrangement Of Atoms  and make crystalline honey comb shape which is also so rare in any other type of opals.

These honey comb shapes are also know on occasions to have brighter or different colour in crystalline formation, this is also a rare occurrence in nature.

This is known as Bravais Lattice in that the opal formation is made up of periodic arrangements, knows as honey comb, consequently the pattern is the same when viewed from any of the lattice points so we can appreciate how rare this pattern is in Ethiopian crystal opals.


Changes To Ethiopian Grading  policy

Re BLACK  Ethiopian opals

To use the world BLACK an  Ethiopian opal seller  will need certificate that opal is natural

If no certificate the world black opal cannot be used

Link to our approved laboratories for certificates

Re SMOKED Ethiopian Opal

Smoked Ethiopian Opals can no longer have word black mentioned and can only be listed as

Smoked Ethiopian Opal

Opalauctions Feb 2014


Ethiopia: Opals Establishing a Brand Name in Export Market


In the beginning of 1990’s opal, a distinctive gemstone known as “Chocolate Opal” was originated from the region of North Shoa Zone of Amhara and Mezezo State. In fact, it has chocolate color within its nodule. These types of opals are usually found in a round nodular surface with three meters within its layer of linked volcanic ash. Only about one percent of these nodules surround with color.


Moreover, the color of this stone is red striking color, which is the reverse of an Australian opal. On the other hand, the opal which is originated from Mezezo compromises with outstanding patterns and radiant colors, which is typically called as “Ethiopian fire opal”. This precious stone is revealed by Senior Geologist from the Ministry of Mines Tewelde-Birhan Abay in the world market.


Meanwhile, Wollo opal, which is usually established along the three districts of the previous Wello district, was capable to compete in international market and materialize to be well-competent due to its exclusive and unusual color patterns according wit some popular Geologist. Also, these opals present a magnificent appearance, which creates a brand name in the global market.


Most of the time, Ethiopian opals are generally known worldwide. Mexico and Australia are considered the pioneers in establishing opal and flouting through the international market, as well. However, some Ethiopian opal discovered near Delanta along Wello Province became well-known due to its remarkable jewelry grade rough among the opal family.


During the last two years, the latest Ethiopian opal has established to be just a tough and dependable like an excellent Australian opal. In the year 2010, after two years of waiting for skilled gem cutters to master the exceptional techniques essential to manage appropriately the latest opal, uncertainty and worries about the feasibility of Wollo opal were set to rest at the Tucson jewel show.


In fact, radiant honeycomb harlequin and brilliant, well-polished and cut Wollo opal caused a remarkable excitement. Since then, the Internet has become inundated with a growing number of videos screening off this radiant and magnificent created jewelry-grade opal. It is established in a highland of 2,500-3,299 meters high. Only the locals are permitted to extract on this ground, and the administration has supplied essential tools.


A diversity of crystals, whether it is a black or brown base have been extracted from the same site. In fact, a jewelry grade of Wollo rough opal is obtainable from extensive suppliers and is currently in high-value. Most wholesale dealers are expecting cost increases as more jewelers and consumers become responsive of the Wollo opal's magnificent exquisiteness as well as, its availability during recent times.


In this matter, Geologist noted that Ethiopia has three classes of opal i.e. fire (Shoa opal) and precious opal (Wollo opal). Their value also varies based on their exceptional variations. These opals are usually mined in different parts of the nation such as Harar, Jimma, Afar, and Somali. It has been mined conventionally by most individuals and organizations, as well.


These opals are usually found at 2-3 meters deep from its surface, which makes it more accessible for poorly prepared miners to do mining. Based on some Geologist, such opal was trade in along 12 different countries including Canada, America, and Germany. Although Ethiopia earns 6 million USD, it compromised with 85% of gemstone export last year.


Nevertheless, The Ministry of Mines is well-occupied in delivering service of covering and set the regular price among 200 licensed exporters. In fact, one gram of opal is usually sold at $200 US, but if the worth adding procedure has been completed, it is usually sold at a cost of more than $1000 USD in the international market, which is higher than the gold.


Most of the Geologist, opal mining has been facing issues about poor mining, which is usually affected most sub-standard products. As a result, companies' venture goes with some current technologies in mining that could optimistically increase the earning of foreign exchange. This conventional mining attached with the mineral's nature of vulnerability for crack has caused to break the amount of mineral.


In addition to, Opal also requires be stored in a place where the condition is comparable to the place from where was mined, as it is simply consumable product. Disinclination of the local states to maintain opal deposit area and failure to accept royalty payment is an added sensitive issue, which should be implied to. Normally, accepting current cutting tools is essential, as the price of such product is higher in the international market.


Generally, converting the usual mining system with recent technologies is also vital to develop the worth and extent of the products. Changing of the mining system also capable to release traditional miners from casualty of top rock fall down and land slide while digging along the horizontal part of the vertical mountains. Moreover, policies are also need to implement in order to minimize the smuggling of opals by illegal traders.



Harlequin is regarded as the rarest pattern in the opal industry.but Ehtiopian has its own unique pattern-Honeycomb Pattern

honey comb pattern is the most sort after pattern on cabochon Ethiopian opal

Many opal miners will never find one of these patterns in their lifetime work.

Black opals are regarded as the most expensive and rarest harlequin pattern opals.

Ethiopian opals have a patchwork harlequin pattern.

True harlequin pattern is a mosaic broad pattern, angular close set of colours.

Floral patterns are sometimes called floral harlequin but Welo Floral  or Welo patchwork would be the correct naming for these gem Ethiopian floral pattern opals



Crystal Ethiopian opal is ideal for faceting due to natural formation of silica spheres and thickness it can be faceted in broad pattern cutting to display hues of brilliant diffracted colours.

Due to broad texture pattern close cut facets are not required for light reflection so broad flash pattern is best pattern for facet cuts.

In most gemstones the finer the faceted cut the brighter the gemstone but this is not the case with Ethiopian opal as  very light reflection is required to display brilliant interlaying flashes.


The translucent internal fire hues of these Ethiopian opals are not hidden deep with in the opal but has properties that make fire hues 3D, this 3 dimensional colour aspect is rare in most opals.

Many Australian black opals have hidden colour spectrum patterns deep with in the opal so a blue opal can have hidden translucent colour bars with violet or purple hues that cannot be directly seen by naked eye., but these Ethiopian opals have vivid translucent colour bars and pattern that are strikingly bright and visible with naked eye.


Ethiopian Welo opal is good for first time  or professional opal cutters to cut and polish or facet. Due to opals intense density and thick colour bars it is easier to polish than thin bar black opals or boulder opals.

Welo rough can be purchased from Ethiopian  opal wholesalers for only $1.00 per gram.

Welo opal is only recently mined but many opal cutters and Ethiopian jewelry manufactures have made rings and pendants .wello opal is now in The Smithsonian Museum of natural history

Ethiopian Opals are valued for their bright flashes of fire colour. Ethiopian Opals are nobby-formed rather than seam-formed and have characteristically brown or dark-nodule potch. These opals are not considered as structurally sound as Australian opals but have incredible fire colours and patterns, but their vivid green and red flashes are prized by collectors.Ethiopian opals have been mined in Mezezo and the new opal field discovered at Gondar is producing top pattern opal crystal.


Ethiopian Welo opal jewelry

This newly discovered Ethiopian opal field has been largely embraced by the opal community as an opal field which is strong and complimentary to other opal fields in the world.

Ethiopian opal manufactures and jewelry wholesaler s are now making Ethiopian welo opal jewelry

Most welo opals are made in sterling silver 925 silver mounts or silver wire wrap and is an ideal opal to bezel set. The opal fire patterns are stunning and as strong as fire colours on the Ethiopian Opals Grading Chart

The advantage that this welo Ethiopian opal has over other fields is that at present there is a steady supply of rough and this Ethiopian rough can be cut to make matching sets of earring, pendants and rings.

Australia opal fields find this so hard matching opal jewelry sets except for opal doublets and triplets that are easy to match

But solid matching opals are hard to find so this is the big advantage to jewelry designers to create jewelry designs using matching opals.

Due to the structure of welo opal it is relatively easy to find a matching opal to make earrings and or a pendant.

Cabochon or domed structure does make the opal pattern more spectacular and rolling patterns are more common in this welo opal and is pleasing to the view.

Opal bracelets made with Welo opal are available and opals look so pleasing .In the early 1900 s many British opal designers made creative opal bracelets and opal necklaces and even today these fetch high prices in antique auctions. And only now can designers create these styles of matching rows of welo opals in pendants or bracelets.




I was at the recent Bangkok gem show where I saw large amounts of Ethiopian black

 opal being sold with gem reports saying its natural. New findings have shown that most,

 if not all, of the "black" Ethiopian opal now seen in the market is not what it appears to be!

 It is either treated by innovative new "smoking" techniques to obtain it's black-opal appearance.

 As this opal is hydrophane it seems to respond to smoking well.

Smoking techniques are not new where opal is concerned, but what is now being used on the

 Ethiopian opal introduces a new twist to the old smoking method, which is why the treatment was

missed by respected gem-testing laboratories.

The old technique was used on low quality opal, such as Mexican hydrophane material,

 to darken the colour of the base material, which causes — by contrast —

 a more fiery play of colour. It was done simply by wrapping the opal tightly in brown paper,

 placing it in a covered container, heating over medium heat until the paper is completely charred,

 then cooling and washing it. The result was a much prettier opal!

This "old" technique (or similar approaches, all of which are still used today) affects only

 the surface and is easy to detect simply by applying a little saliva to the surface of the stone:

 if the fiery play of color is visibly reduced when wet but then returns to its more fiery character

when dry, you know it is "smoked."

When the newly smoked Ethiopian material was cut open, however, it was discovered that

the darkening effect penetrated the entire stone, and so normal, routine testing techniques used

 for opal didn't indicate smoking, or dyeing, or any other treatment. Yet once the researchers

 probed deeper in studying this new "suspect" material, and applied more sophisticated

techniques not routinely used for opal, the existence of carbon (from the blackening/smoking

 technique used) was immediately detected. Under a loop you can see small carbon spots inside

and there is usually surface pitting on the surface.

. There  is a lot of brown dark material from the shewa field which shouldn’t been confused

 with this smoked black material. I have seen some natural wello which is dark based but not

black. The natural stones i have seen would rank a N3-4 on the body tone chart .There is a market

 for this material but it should be disclosed as treated. If you see black wello opal you should

 be cautious and ask questions and also check the sellers return policy just in case. If you

do want to check your stones send it to a lab and ask for a carbon test.

paul sedawie

APresident australian opal society



Read more about Ethiopian Opals.

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